Friday, February 29, 2008

A's for the Q's

Back in January, I wondered aloud - or apage? And between then and now, well, you know how I love to look things up, so here you go, courtesy moi:

You don't have to dial a 1 before the area code on cell phones because the 1 was a signal to the oldfangled landline network that a long-distance call was being placed, and that a) additional charges were accruing and b) the call needed to be switched to long distance lines. Since cell phones operate in the ether, and since at any given moment your carrier and some nerd working for some nefarious intelligence agency knows exactly where you are and where you're calling, the 1 is just superfluous.

We still say dial the phone because, what can I say, we're creatures of habit. But cell phones don't have dial tones because they're not connected to anything until after we dial, I mean punch in, the number and hit "send." Landline phones are connected to the phone network the minute we pick up the handset - the dial tone served to tell us we were good to go ("GTG" in today's cell-phone text lingo), and that the network was ready to decode the number (is it long distance? did she dial a 1?) and connect our call.

Sweetbreads aren't called organs from baby animals because then far fewer people would eat them. Duh.

It's the whole 9 yards because in WWI, ammunition came in rolls 9 yards long, and when you really wanted to give it to the other side, you gave them the whole 9 yards. My only question is - when didn't you really want to give it to them? Hey Larry, let's take it easy on them Krauts today, just give 'em 3 yards. I don't think so.

I still don't know why you listen to radio stations and watch tv channels. I'm trying, folks, I'm trying.

Turns out you can TiVo the music channels - (now that's tricky, if it's music on tv, is it a station, or a channel? Maybe a stannel?) - unless you can't. And that's that.

Dearth and hearth? That's nothing. The English language is just plain ornery.

The design question - I don't know. It's sort of the car question too. Why can't Detroit design even one car that looks like some of the best-selling Japanese cars? Just one? I don't understand why that's so hard. Oops. I guess that's not really an answer. But I was getting bored anyway.

Oh, and preheat? It's a real, honest-to-goodness word - it means "to heat (an oven) to a designated temperature before using for cooking" (courtesy Merriam-Webster). No hyphen or nuthin'. So there you go. Who knew?

English - inexplicable to the end

Is it just me, or have you ever wondered why we have inept, but not ept?

Or why, if a date can live in infamy, a moment can't live in famy? Derek Fisher's 0.4 seconds left winning shot, or the catch by Willie Mays come to mind. (This one's for you, Dad.)

The fall of the Berlin Wall also qualifies - for the higher minded.

For that matter, why isn't infame a word? Sordid Tales of Misfortune and Infame? (I mean, famous and infamous are both words, how did the rest of the family get short-changed?)

There's newfangled, but not fangled? Not even oldfangled?

If you're disinterested you're impartial, but if you're uninterested you're indifferent. Okay, that's not really the same thing, but hardly anyone gets it right. Which just irks me. And if you're going to say irregardless, go the whole nine yards and say disirregardless, just so everyone knows you know.

And can we talk about the words that mean both one thing and its opposite? (Autoantonyms for you fellow geeks out there.) That's just mean.

Livid (darkly bruised/pale and ashen). How are you supposed to know? The flowers bloomed livid. Well? Were they purple or were they white?

Hellacious (remarkably good, extraordinary/distasteful and repellant). How is anything related to hell remarkably good? That doesn't seem right. I can see it coming in handy though, "wow, that is one hellacious screenplay you've got there, Ms. Cody." Huh. The Hollywood version of the ancient Chinese proverb, "may you live an interesting life."

Ravel (entangle/disentangle). If his lies are raveling, is he a good liar? Or a bad one? Whatever, if he's a liar, ditch him disirregardless.

Dust (to sprinkle fine particles/to remove fine particles). Dust the dust. Brings back fond memories of Amelia Bedelia - remember her? The housekeeper who drew the drapes... on paper? And dressed the chicken... in pants? She also dusted the living room - with baby powder.

Handicap (advantage/disadvantage).
Do you know how long this confused me?? Advantage in sports, like golf - the very best description of which I have ever heard, by the by, is Robin Williams' - if you haven't heard it, drop everything and watch this, because seriously, it's one of the funniest sports diatribes ever... Disadvantage in life. I still don't get this one.

Sanction (
to authorize/a punitive action). This one drove me batty when I was a Poli Sci major. I could never figure out whether we were for or against Afghanistan, or China, or Iran. Then again, I still can't.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Late to the party, but I know I good thing when I hear it

Here's the way it is. I HATE reality shows. Hate, loathe, despise, detest, abhor, not to mention disparage, scorn and disdain. That's just me. If you like 'em - more power to ya. As my grandmother used to say - that's what makes horse races.

Me - when I watch TV, I either want to see a smart-aleck review current events (Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, you know...) or I want to see some escapist fiction, with pretty people and good writing (kinda like Juno, though probably not as good - but don't get me started). I just have absolutely no desire to see real people do stupid things. I see that every day, anyway.

And I get that there are also those talent-based competition shows - the dancing and singing ones. I was sort of neutral on those - they don't fit my beautiful people/smart dialogue criteria, but I've always been a sucker for a good spelling bee, so I get them, at least a bit more than the "I'm going to chew on a live scorpion now" shows.

And then two years ago, I got sucked in. And I mean with a giant sucking noise I got sucked in! I disappeared every Tuesday and Wednesday night to watch Bucky, Taylor, Kellie, Chris, Katherine, Ace and the rest of them battle it out on American Idol.

Until the end. Look, I was fine with the final three (Katherine McPhee - the pretty girl with a sweet voice, Taylor Hicks - the quirky guy from the South with a shtick, and Chris Daughtry - the charismatic rocker who could put it out there). But then it was clear, it should have been Chris and Katherine and then it should have been Chris. Taylor Hicks? As they say - WTF? Taylor Hicks? Are you kidding? And that was that. I was done. D-O-N-E. Done. As far as I was concerned, that was exactly why I hate (abhor, detest, despise, well - you know the drill) reality shows. Because even though this was supposed to be talent based, evidently I still had to suffer from real people (the audience) doing stupid things. Feh.

Oh, and can we just note, for the record, that as of early January this year, Katherine McPhee, Ms 2nd Place, had sold somewhere around 366,000 albums, Taylor Hicks a whopping 700,000 and Chris Daughtry? He'd sold 3.6 million. Yeah. Million. (Plus - I hear Daughtry on the radio all the time and I like it. I have yet to hear a Taylor Hicks song. Not once. Ever. Not that this bothers me from a musical standpoint, mind you, but that's not the point.)

Why am I dredging all this up? Well, I've heard some murmurs that this year's American Idol is worth watching. And, as you can tell, I'm just a tad reluctant to put a dog in that fight again. Still, I try to keep an open mind - so I put it on in the background the other night as I was writing some stuff. It was boys night and made for fine background noise. Until the last singer. No joke, I stopped working to listen. This kid, David A, is something else. He was mesmerizing.

And if he doesn't make it to the final two, well, at least I'll know I'm right about reality TV of all stripes. And I really don't want to be right. Not this time.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

You can't win for losing in this town

You all know how I feel about Diablo Cody - and I am (clearly) not alone. The girl won an Academy Award for crying out loud. But now there seems to be backlash, and backlash to the backlash, which would be... frontlash? Eyelash? Whatever. Anyway... I was rather leaving the whole thing alone, but the stuff I've been reading the past few days is just too stupid to leave alone.

First the backlash. She's getting flack (flak?) for being outre (sorry, can't find the e with the accent in my blogging software), for her tat, for her past, for her look, for her voice (hello? for her voice? her, ahem, Oscar-winning voice? Right. That really makes sense.) It's as though while she was a "hopeful" all of that was charming, quirky, smart, authentic, different. And now that she's won, it's affected, arrogant, tawdry, rebellious (okay, well she is, but she always was), and somehow fake. Like now that she's won the Oscar, she shouldn't be an ex-stripper anymore. Puh-lease.

And that's just about her. Then there's the idiocy, and I do mean idiocy, about the movie itself. (That would be the backlash to the backlash.) There's plenty of it, but my two favorite objections are 1) that it champions teen pregnancy and b) that 16 year-olds don't really sound like that. Okay, I have a lot, and I mean a lot I could say about all of that, but I'm going to limit it (sort of).

Regarding the first point, it's a MOVIE. Can we talk about movies glamorizing killing people? How many boys (and girls, for that matter) want to be John McClane? Dirty Harry? Martin Riggs? Huh? Don't like that analogy? What about the spate of 'Prince Charming's going to come to my high school and solve all my problems' movies that have come out recently? Is that a good lesson to be teaching the little ones? Do we object? No? Why? Maybe because they're, I don't know, movies?

Which leads nicely into the second objection - that 16 year-olds don't talk like that.

Really. You don't say.

Can I point out that most people "Breaking Up" don't look like Jennifer Aniston? That most presidents don't talk like Andrew Shepherd? Or look like Michael Douglas? That few nuns look like Susan Sarandon? How many teachers in Harlem look like Michelle Pfeiffer? Hillary Swank? Denzel Washington? Sidney Poitier? (and yes, geographical liberties taken, but you get my point) How many wives are as funny as Debbie in Knocked Up? How many sports agents are as madly eloquent as Jerry Maguire? For that matter, how many girls are as romantically succinct as Dorothy Boyd? How many outlaws are as carefree and witty as Butch Cassidy and Sundance? And, really, how many people on the face of the planet look like that? How many attorneys speak or behave like Atticus Finch? Or look like Gregory Peck? (I think I'll rest my case right there.) Isn't the point of movies to be more than, to be better than? Of good movies?

Here's my question (and we all know the $130 million answer) - wasn't Juno fun to listen to? And don't you wish some 16 year-olds did talk like that? Crikey, don't you wish you talked like that? I know I do.

Monday, February 25, 2008

They said this day would never come.

I can name a few of them. Peggy Noonan. Christopher Buckley. Ted Sorensen. (Not, obviously, in any particular order.) Their names may or may not live on in any real famy (there's "infamy" - why not "famy"? seriously, why not? Actually, I have a list of words I can ask that about, but another day...), but their words will...

Remember "a thousand points of light"? Courtesy Noonan.

Remember “uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.”? Vintage Sorensen.

So, anyway, until today, I had no idea who was writing Obama's speeches. And I think he or she is pretty damn good. Huh. And, as you know, there's nothing I like better than an unanswered question and a keyboard.

Turns out, it's a 26 year-old former member of John Kerry's staff, named Jon Favreau. (No, not that Jon Favreau.)

And I think we'll remember his words. For quite some time.

(Oh, and here's a good analysis from Slate of whether or not the "words? just words?" portion of this particular speech is plagiarism.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

My favorite Oscar speech EVER

Life Achievement.
Stanley Donen.

Who also had this to say about being a director that night: "You find yourself a great script and great actors. Then you show up -- and stay the hell out of the way. But you gotta show up or else you can't take the credit and win one of these guys."
'Nuff said.

with thanks to the Brothers Jazz

Last October, my friends (the aforementioned Brothers Jazz) made me their comfort food dinner, which entailed tater tots, eggs, cheese and bacon — all in one pan. I'll be honest, it looked absolutely revolting. As it was sizzling away, I kept a weather eye on Tasha and Bernie (resident Bernese Mountain and St. Bernard, respectively). After all, I was sure the dogs would eat — ahem — like it. Then I tried it. What do I know? It was fantastic, and is now a staple of my own cooking repertoire and oft requested by my friends. And Tasha and Bernie? Poor things never even got a bite.

Something that good, I announced, needed a name. What name? "Dog food." Obviously.

And the recipe (feel free to ad lib as you see fit):

1/2 bag tater tots, frozen
1/2 lb bacon
6 eggs
2/3 (or so) cup shredded cheese (cheddar or jack/cheddar)

Chop the bacon crosswise into 1/2" wide strips, cook up and set aside.
Fry up the tater tots in a pan with some canola oil. Pour in as much of the bacon grease as you like as they're cooking. You need to stir and scrape, or they'll burn on the bottom. And the tots will fall apart as you cook 'em &mdash that's just fine.
When the tater tots are cooked through and good and crispy on the bottom, crack in the eggs and add in the cheese and the bacon. Scramble it all up until the eggs are thoroughly cooked.

Voila &mdash dog food. Yum!


Today I got an announcement from a Mr. Al Spurlock (googled him to no effect, I'll have you know, he must be Hillary's own MacGuffin) in my inbox, letting me know "we'll be posting online, quick and fun video reports from the trail to energize our top supporters, HillStars like you."

Hello? I am so not a "HillStar."

Quick as a snake, I clicked on unsubscribe, whereupon a browser window popped up, asking (I couldn't make this up):
"Please mention the reason you wanted to unsubscriber." (sic)

There was only one answer to why I wanted to unsubscribe her, of course, and I promptly typed it in: "Go Obama!"

p.s. If you're a Hillary supporter and you want to be a Hillstar - check out the Hillstar site (password is victory)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Open That Bottle Night

So, what's it going to be folks?

A dusty bottle of vintage champagne?

A precious bottle of '97 California Cabernet?

A crisp white Burgundy, left over from that great dinner party you had seven years ago?

Tonight is, after all, Open That Bottle Night - the annual evening that, in their infinite wisdom, the wine gurus over at the Wall Street Journal designated to be the night that you open that hoarded, coveted, revered bottle of wine you've been saving... and saving... and saving... and saving...

Open and drink the damn thing already! What are you saving it for? Your funeral?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Save our show, save our show

This is a bit strange - as I have yet to see this show. My entire family, and a few other trusted souls, however, all think it is one of the best shows ever to grace the airwaves. And these are some picky people, trust me. What show? Friday Night Lights, of course.

So earlier today, I'm riding the waves of the web, as I'm wont to do, and I stumble across the CNN news report that FNL (as the cognoscenti call it - and also as the lazy typists call it) may be canceled by NBC - alarms go off loudly. Oh no! I think. That can't be. And I do a little digging.

Lo and behold, there is a Save FNL movement - similar to the Save Jericho movement that resulted in 40,000 pounds of peanuts being sent to the studio and, more importantly, the show staying on the air. (Read CBS's letter to the fans when it was decided to keep the show going. I particularly like the postscript.)

The Save FNL goal is to bombard Ben Silverman, the current President of Entertainment at NBC, with mini-footballs. The Save FNL site is a bit hard to decipher, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that at least 6250 mini-footballs have been sent so far to Mr. Silverman (after all, what do you give the man who has it all?). And earlier today, Variety reported that NBC is investigating alternative approaches to airing the show that may enable it to stay on the air, including partnering with other networks.

FNL is high on my DVD-marathons-to-run list. I hope its fans keep it alive, until I become one too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Betamax is to HD-DVD as VHS is to...

The war is over, the victor is clear, the battlefield is littered with the titanium shells of dead machines.

So long HD-DVD, helloooo Blu-Ray.

Warner Bros. Studios, the largest video distributor, put the first nail in the coffin early this year with its announcement that it was Blu-ray or no way going forward for its high def DVDs. Best Buy and Netflix also threw down on the side of Blu-ray last week. Sony Studios, of course, had long ago cast its vote (Blu-ray is Sony technology). Disney, Fox and Lionsgate studios had also pronounced their Blu-ray allegiance. It was Wal-mart, shockingly, who was responsible for the final nail last Friday, when it announced that by June 2008, not a single HD-DVD movie or player would be found on its shelves. Anywhere. At all. In any of its 4,000 stores.

I must point out, however, that not even one year ago, Wal-mart, that bastion of rectitude and fair dealings, flexed its muscle to pronounce HD-DVD the winner. You read that right - in April 2007, plans were "leaked" that Wal-mart was going to be purchasing two million HD-DVD players to be sold super-cheap (< $200) for the 2007 holiday season (Wal-mart denied this claim). By October, reports were in (this time confirmed by Wal-mart) that Toshiba's HD-DVD players had been spotted on those illustrious shelves for just $198.

Let me get this straight - last year, just in time for the holidays, Wal-mart cuts the price on its HD-DVD players. And then, six weeks later, announces that it will be an exclusively Blu-Ray supplier going forward? Wow. That takes nerve.

I know how I'd feel right about now if I were a Wal-mart shopper with a spanking new HD-DVD player sitting at home.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The dark side of the moon

There's something magical about the moon disappearing in the shadow of the earth. As though the sun, the moon and the earth collaborated on a synchronous performance designed to astonish and amaze us. A performance we all get to witness simultaneously, regardless of where we are, unlike the sunrise and sunset. I love that.

And it doesn't happen too often - in fact, the next one will be in 2010. According to the Telegraph, the moon will appear red, from sunlight seeping in from the edges of the atmosphere. And to answer one question someone asked me - an eclipse can only happen during a full moon.

It may not be a blue moon, but it's a rare event nonetheless - a pumpkin moon glowing in the penumbra. I wouldn't miss it.

What's five months among friends?

Has anyone else seen this ad on TNT? "The wait is over. New episodes coming this July."

Excuse me?

I did the math, twice, and that's five - 1, 2, 3, 4, five - months from now. Hate to think where we'd be if we were actually, um, waiting.

Because I just leap out of bed in the morning, don't you?

The only thing I hate more than getting out of bed in the morning is the annoying, incessant beep of my alarm. And it is only by some super-human and unknown inner fortitude, coming from I have no idea where, that I manage to hit the "snooze" button, subjecting myself to that chime over and over again, rather than just hitting the "off" button, which is of course what I'm dying to do.

I haven't actually seen this clock in person... but trust me, I plan on it. An alarm clock that takes your grumpy thwack on the snooze button as its signal to leap off your nightstand and roll around the floor, craftily searching for a hidey-hole from which to torment you with its cheery beep-beep-beep, until you actually get out of bed to find (and silence) it? Sounds almost too good to be true.

I'm not sure one of these pups will be enough for me though; there is that implicit assumption in the design that once out of bed, I won't get back in. Right. Like that'll never happen.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A movie, please? Somebody, put out a movie

I hate this time of year. January and February are the wasteland of film releases. Let's just review, shall we?, the "notable" releases since New Year's (note the Rotten Tomatoes score in parentheses next to each movie):

One Missed Call (0) - A zero. Now, that's horrifying. And oddly impressive.
First Sunday (16) - I know I'm not the audience, I know it - but still. One reviewer noted that "for an early January movie, this is sometimes as good as it gets." Damning with faint praise my friends, faint praise.
In the Name of the King (2) - Jason Statham action/adventure flick? How'd they screw that up? This one is up there in the record books though, for best cast/worst movie (Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, John Rhys-Davies, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken, Matthew Lillard, Will Sanderson, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds).
27 Dresses (37) - coulda been better. Shoulda been better. Damn, I wish it'd been better.
Cloverfield (76) - perfect timing for this - its $16MM opening weekend "destroyed" the competition (to date it's over $75MM). Someone knew exactly when to release this puppy.
Mad Money (21) - I blinked and missed that one. Didn't miss much evidently, even with Mrs. Cruise in a perm.
How She Move (70) - actually, I want to see this. But that's just me. Still - a 70.
Cassandra's Dream (47) - a Woody Allen movie. Wow. This hasn't even broken the $1MM mark yet.
Rambo (34) - um, need I say ANYTHING else about the sad state of January (2008, I mean)?
Meet the Spartans (3) - okay, a three. I rest my case.
Untraceable (12) - A serious departure from Primal Fear... even the eminently watchable Diane Lane wasn't enough to save this movie.
The Eye (19) - "I know! Let's take a hot sci-fi fantasy TV actress and remake a Japanese horror flick." I mean, let's do it again, only with Jessica Alba instead of Sarah Michelle Gellar this time.
Over Her Dead Body (13) - even the ads for this looked dismal.
Fool's Gold (9) - I get it, really. They were cute together before, why not try again? Er, this would be why not.
The Hottie and the Nottie (7) - wow, and this isn't even the lowest score. Go, Paris!
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (28) - when he's good he's very, very good (Bad Boys, anyone?), and when he's bad, he's...
In Bruges (75) - This is for sure the next movie I'll be seeing.
Definitely Maybe (69) - a viable RC? Count me in.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (79) - and the winner is! okay, okay, I'll go.
Jumper (15) - doesn't it just seem like this should've been so much better?
Step Up 2 the Streets (28) - RT said it best: "Been there, danced that."

And let me just add, re the RT scores, I have my fair share of favorite movies that have earned "rotten" scores. There is nothing to be ashamed of in loving a rotten movie. But for statistical purposes, let's just consider that out of the 21 movies I've listed that have been released since January 1st, the average score is a 31. Last November and December's average score? 62.

But I see the light.... coming out this weekend we have two, count 'em, two promising feature films. Hallelujah and praise be!
Charlie Bartlett - I will see anything with Robert Downey Jr. in it. Anything.
Vantage Point - Please. Please. Please. I'm begging. Let this be good. Please.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I thought I had it in for Valentine's Day

Let me just put it out there - I am not a fan of this holiday. I never really got who that saint Valentine was, or why he was the saint for lovers, or why I was supposed to think "be my valentine" was such a romantic request. Bah humbug! (Mind you, I am also the one who listens happily, even eagerly, to Christmas music from Thanksgiving through Boxing Day - I am nothing if not reliably inconsistent.) And I know I'm not alone - there's an anti-Valentine's Day movement out there, a veritable phalanx of protesters armed with slings and arrows, not of love, ready to take down the day. I just know there is.

The following report, however, rather takes the cake (only an excerpt - for the full experience, read on MacDuff):

Last year in Malaysia, a government official, Muhammad Ramli Nuh, declared, according to the Bernama News Agency, that “celebrating the Day could be regarded as recognizing the enemies of Islam because Valentine or Valentinus took part in planning and attacking Cordoba, once a well-known centre of Islam in Spain, causing its downfall.” Actually, St. Valentine was a third-century Christian martyr in the Roman Empire, but give Muhammad Ramli Nuh points for imagination.

Evidently we have Chaucer to thank for this holiday -- speaking of which, if you haven't seen Paul Bettany playing Chaucer in A Knight's Tale (also starring the sadly belated Heath Ledger), I highly recommend it. It was written and directed by Brian Helgeland (who wrote L.A. Confidential and Mystic River, among other things).

$50? Really? A whole $50?

And the hits, they keep on coming...

not exactly equal time, but...

Ten thousand years? Yeah, we're probably not too concerned about that.

Just a little lovin'

Here are my two cents (if you just can't get out of it):

theme song -- Just A Little Lovin' (but only the original by Dusty Springfield)

flowers -- framed postcard of Renoir's "Roses" (longer lasting and surely more original)

champagne -- a rose cava (try Cristallino) or the real thing: Billecart Salmon Brut Rose

chocolate -- it just doesn't get better than Mr. Chocolate himself, Jacques Torres. If I know one thing, it's chocolate - and these, friends are Off. The. Charts.

And if you happen to be in New York - check out the loooove banners in Times Square ("a public art project featuring 15 unique banner designs by 12 top graphic designers and illustrators"). I heart NY, anyone?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here's hoping

Voltaire said, "I do not agree with a word you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."
For the record, I don't care who you vote for, as long as you vote. Also for the record, my dad is going to be a regional delegate in WA for Barack Obama. I think that's pretty damn cool.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Could have

One of my all-time favorite poems.

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier. Later.
Nearer. Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.

You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone. With others.
On the right. The left.
Because it was raining. Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.

You were in luck -- there was a forest.
You were in luck -- there were no trees.
You were in luck -- a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
A jamb, a turn, a quarter-inch, an instant . . .

So you're here? Still dizzy from
another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or
how your heart pounds inside me.

--Wislawa Szymborska (from View With a Grain of Sand, 1995)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bully redux

Pursuant to requests for further research and additional information (who knew the bully in the fruit bowl would provoke such a furor?), the facts have been checked and rechecked, the mysteries investigated and resolved, the onion peeled and the cucumber seeded (with a handy dandy cucumber deseeding gadget, no less - don't you just love internet solipsism?).

The Transport Information Site (you'd be surprised what you can learn there) has this to say about Allelopathy:

Allelopathy is understood to mean the influence exerted by vegetable products (fruits) on other plants or plants of the same species through the gases they give off...

For example, apples excrete large amounts of ethylene, which may cause potatoes to sprout prematurely. Cucumbers turn yellow on exposure to ethylene from apples or tomatoes. The reason for this is that the fruit and vegetable species produce different amounts of ethylene and exhibit different levels of sensitivity to other ethylene producers

Now, this begs the question - is the apple a bully or a wuss? As previously reported by yours truly, and according to the master scientists at Real Simple, we called the apple a wuss. Now it turns out that apples are that worst kind of wuss - the ones that let themselves get bullied (by bananas and tomatoes, for instance), but given the opportunity, will turn around and beat up on some poor, unsuspecting potato or carrot.

There is, however, an upside. Exploit the bully! Should you ever need a wimpy, green piece of fruit to ripen faster - well, then, by all means, put it in the bowl with a bully. Presto! Change-o! Ethylene gas emitted, ripening process hastened, edible fruit delivered.

And you thought life in a fish bowl was tough.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I stumbled onto a cool blog - 23/6 ("Some of the news/Most of the time")... I don't know how, or from where, or what I was looking for, though I'm sure it was something valuable and worthy. (Never mind that where I ended up was reading Bonnie Fuller's "Letter to Britney" - fascinating stuff, that - on the Huffington Post, another site and collection of blogs I really like.) And then I was all of sudden on 23/6 again, and read this...

Classic Dowd Pointless Antiphonal Wordplay (CLADPAW) involves combining a political reference with a pop cultural reference in the first clause of the sentence, and then recombining the two in a pointless way in the second clause, often with the addition of some kind of homophone, homonym, or pun. Turns out, it's as satisfying as it sounds.

The site sends you to Maureen Dowd's column today for some examples - but I thought I'd make it even easier and pull some out.

It’s an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path.

But her pitch is the color of pitch

Hillary’s case boiled down to the fact that she can be Trouble, as they say about hard-boiled dames in film noir, when Republicans make trouble

You gotta admit, he has a point...

Don't move. Don't say a word.

You can make your point by doing absolutely nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

Monday, February 04, 2008


What did we do before we had the...

Microwave "Fasta Pasta" Pasta cooker (you know, because boiling water on the stove is soooo hard)

Patented in Italy in 2002, and in the good old US of A in 2006. There's something not right when Italy, the land of spaghetti and vermicelli and rigatoni and orechiette and, and, and... issues a patent for a microwave pasta cooker. Don't you think someone at the Officina dei Patentsi should have stood up and defended the tradition of Italy's national carb?

Natural Peanut Butter Mixer (and here I was, stirring with a knife. What was I thinking?)

Patented by Robert N. Witmer of Ohio in 2004.

Did you know that George Washington Carver did NOT invent peanut butter? C.H. Sumner purportedly turned the world onto the stuff at the Universal Exposition of 1904 in St. Louis. Then, in 1922, Joseph L. Rosefield patented the formula for the shelf-stable stuff we grew up with. You know, the peanut butter that doesn't need to be mixed? But where's the fun in that?

Tuna Press (why use the lid when you can buy a piece of plastic to do the same thing?)

Patent evidently issued in 1999. But, alas, this indispensable product may soon be dispensed with - vacuum-packed pouches of tuna, introduced in 2000 according to the US Tuna Foundation (seriously, the Tuna Foundation), mean no liquid, and hence, no draining. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Plastic Bag Opener (is there anything else to say?)

Patent issued in 2006 - I mean, what else could it be for?

Cucumber Deseeder (and here I am, scraping away with a spoon. Silly me.)

For this indispensable gadget, I could find no patent (shocking, I know)... But it too can be yours for the low, low price of just $10.

I often wonder, what did we do before the cell phone? before email? before the tuna drain? Excuse me, before the tuna press?

Don't you?